Kanaras v. State

Decision Date06 May 1983
Docket NumberNo. 1210,1210
Citation54 Md.App. 568,460 A.2d 61
PartiesDeno Constantine KANARAS v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Joseph F. Murphy, Jr., Towson, with whom were White & Murphy, Towson, on brief, for appellant.

Stephanie J. Lane, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom were Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen., Joseph I. Cassilly, State's Atty. for Harford County, and Gerard S. Comen, Asst. State's Atty. for Harford County, on brief, for appellee.

Argued before WILNER, ALPERT and BLOOM, JJ.

ALPERT, Judge.

In this case we hold that no error was committed by the Circuit Court for Kent County (Rasin, J.) in the trial of Deno Constantine Kanaras, the appellant, and we shall affirm the judgment of that court. Appellant was indicted by the grand jury for Harford County on July 28, 1981 for murder, daytime housebreaking and theft offenses. At trial, Kanaras did not deny his presence at the scene of the crimes while they were being committed, but rather his defense was that any involvement on his part was coerced by one John Huffington, who had already been tried and convicted of first degree premeditated murder. 1 The case was removed to Kent County and after a nine-day jury trial, appellant was convicted of felony murder, theft and daytime housebreaking. Judge Rasin imposed a life sentence for the convictions. An appeal was timely filed, and appellant contends that:

1. He was denied a fair trial by the State's deliberate non-disclosure of (a) inconsistent statements given by a prosecution witness it intended to call, in violation of a pretrial discovery order, and (b) statements prepared by the chief investigator concerning matters he testified to on direct examination;

2. The trial court erred in denying appellant's motions for judgment of acquittal on the felony murder and daytime housebreaking charges;

3. The trial court erred in prohibiting appellant's psychiatrist from expressing opinions about whether appellant's psychological profile was consistent or inconsistent with voluntary participation in a violent crime and with prompt reporting to the authorities;

4. The trial court erred in varying the order of proof on its own motion so as to permit evidence of appellant's other crimes in order for the jury to assess appellant's credibility; and

5. The trial court erred in permitting the State to introduce motivation evidence against appellant.

I. The Becker and Hudson Murders

In the early morning hours of May 25, 1981 Diane Becker ("Becker") and Joseph Hudson ("Hudson") were brutally murdered in Harford County, Maryland. There is little doubt that the murders were drug-related. On the night in question Deno Constantine Kanaras ("Kanaras") and John Norman Huffington ("Huffington") were seeking to obtain cocaine. Kanaras telephoned Huffington, who after attempting unsuccessfully to locate a seller, told the appellant to pick him up in order that the two might consummate a deal elsewhere. About midnight the two went to Pecora's Fallston Inn. After about forty-five minutes, they left for the Golden Forty, another drinking establishment, arriving there at about 1:20 A.M. At the Golden Forty Huffington spoke with Joseph Hudson about the possible purchase of cocaine. Shortly thereafter, Hudson and Diane Becker, his girlfriend, left the club with another couple. Appellant and Huffington followed the others to a local convenience store where Huffington and Hudson made the necessary arrangements for the cocaine deal. Appellant and Huffington continued to follow Hudson and Becker to the campgrounds, where the victims maintained a 22-foot Shasta recreational vehicle, 2 and then returned to Huffington's apartment. A deal with a third party was supposedly arranged and Hudson, believing that the third party wished to speak with him directly, accompanied appellant and Huffington to a location off Route 24 in Harford County. After they exited appellant's car, Hudson was shot several times by Huffington and cocaine was taken from his person. Huffington and Kanaras left Hudson for dead.

At this point, according to Kanaras, Huffington pointed the gun at him and ordered him to return to the campgrounds, for the supposed purpose of removing about $2,000.00, which Huffington had been told was for drug transactions, from the Hudson trailer. Upon their arrival at the mini-motor home, they found Diane Becker and her child asleep. Kanaras found the money to which Huffington had alluded. Huffington took the money. Next, Huffington proceeded to hit Becker across the head with a large bottle five or six times and then stabbed her in the chest and throat until she was dead. The two returned to Huffington's apartment where the money was divided and bloodstained clothes washed. Later they disposed of the bottle, some bullets, and burned other evidence of the crimes.

It was about 1:00 P.M. when Kanaras finally arrived back at his house. He slept until about 6:00 P.M. whereupon he discovered that the authorities wished to speak with him. Huffington had telephoned Kanaras, warning him not to tell the police what had happened or else "he would get me." The following day, appellant, along with his father and his attorney, went to speak with the State's Attorney. Kanaras voluntarily gave a statement and participated in the recovery of the evidence which Huffington had sought to destroy.

On June 16, 1981 Kanaras testified before the Harford County Grand Jury. As a result of this testimony, Huffington was indicted. On July 28, 1981 Kanaras was himself indicted for the murders and for unrelated narcotics offenses. Kanaras testified against Huffington at Huffington's trial on November 9, 1981. The case against Kanaras was removed to Kent County on January 20, 1982. A jury there found the appellant guilty of the felony murder of Diane Becker, theft and daytime housebreaking.

II. Production of Statements of Rassa and Saneman
A. The Rassa Statements

At a pretrial motions hearing, it was ordered "that the State furnish to the defendant ... copies of any inconsistent statements of witnesses it intends to call, if such statements exist and are in its possession...." At a pretrial conference, defense counsel sought to prohibit "evidence proof that Kanaras committed other crimes on other occasions, such as drug transactions or theft offenses, or weapons offenses." The prosecutor replied that "at this particular time we have no intention whatsoever of using any of that information at all during the course of the trial in chief." During the course of the trial, the prosecution proffered that Stephen Rassa would testify that on a prior occasion, just before he and the appellant purchased cocaine from Hudson and Becker at the camper, Kanaras stated that he "wouldn't mind robbing Joe Hudson and stealing his coke and money," and that on that occasion the appellant had to be dissuaded from carrying a gun into the camper during the cocaine purchase. Appellant contends that under the pretrial order he should have received prior statements by this witness before he testified. This contention is without merit.

No sanctions were ever sought for the alleged violation of the pretrial discovery order. Further, the conditions suggested in that order were not required under the Maryland Rules. Appellant may not present the claim for the first time on appeal. Maryland Rule 1085. The failure to seek sanctions operates as a waiver of any defects and prohibits appellate review of the question. Further, even if the issue were properly before us we would find the contention to be without merit. Appellant received the statements at the precise time that he was entitled to receive them, i.e., after Rassa's direct examination. See, Leonard v. State, 46 Md.App. 631, 421 A.2d 85 (1980), affirmed, 290 Md. 295, 429 A.2d 538 (1981) and the discussion of disclosure of Saneman's notes, infra.

B. Saneman's Notes (Production for Purpose of Impeachment)

David Saneman, a deputy in the Harford County Sheriff's Office, served as chief investigator of the Hudson and Becker murders. Saneman testified that in the evening after the murders he went to the appellant's house and was told by the appellant that while he had been with Huffington on the night in question, he was unaware of the killings. With appellant's consent, Saneman had appellant's car searched. The next morning appellant voluntarily appeared at the State's Attorney's Office, where in the presence of his attorney and Saneman, a statement implicating Huffington was given. Kanaras maintained, however, that he was not a voluntary participant in the crimes. With the help of the appellant, Saneman was able to recover the handgun and knife used in the murders, ammunition, and Becker's burnt purse and identification. It was through Saneman's testimony that Kanaras' detailed statement was introduced at trial.

Saneman did not use any notes during his direct examination. However, prior to cross-examining the witness, defense counsel sought to obtain statements Saneman had written concerning his investigation and reports he had prepared concerning the matters to which he had testified. The production of these writings was refused by the trial judge on the basis that the witness was a police investigator and that the writings were of an investigatory nature. Assuming arguendo that the trial judge erred in refusing to order the State to produce the subject reports, under the unique circumstances of this case, any error therein was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Dorsey v. State, 276 Md. 638, 350 A.2d 665 (1976).

Appellant contends that he "was denied a fair trial by the State's deliberate non-disclosure of ... statement prepared by the chief investigator [Saneman] concerning matters he testified to on direct examination." However, in his argument he speculates that there was something in Saneman's notes "that the defense could make use of," thus implying a desire to impeach Saneman by use of those notes--a...

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